And so it is done. Last overall is sealed. A lottery guarantee of a top-two pick is in the bag. Come late June, either John Tavares or Victor Hedman -- Hype 1 and Hype 1A in this year's edition of the teenager-stalking hockey cult -- will be slipping on the (royal?) blue and orange of the New York Islanders. A long, hard season of
tanking hardship reveals its silver lining.
There will be plenty of time to scrutinize them and the rest of the 1990-born kids between now and June 26. For now, a few notes about last night's game...
Frans Nielsen got the first goal to give the Isles a 1-0 lead, and that was it. The Penguins proceeded to get the next six goals, including one by former Islanders captain Bill Guerin. Only having skimmed the game recording, a potential turning point -- or no-turning-back point -- appeared to be at 3-1, when the Islanders hit the goal post twice within a couple seconds on a 5-on-3.
Based on the highlights, despite 31 saves, Joey MacDonald had another uninspiring night that adds to the questions about his long-term NHL potential.
But while goaltending is the biggest ingredient for any team's success, an injury-depleted lineup's inability to finish carries its share of the burden: After being outscored 15-1 in the last two games, the Islanders are now in very real danger of finishing the season without even scoring 200 goals. They sit at 197 now, with two home games left this weekend.
No Love for the Enforcers? Really?
Some interesting numbers from an otherwise uninteresting game: Mitch Fritz, 1:09 TOI. Joel Rechlicz, 5:25. Defenseman Thomas Pock, 8:07.
I know sub-6:00 is par for the course for Scott Gordon's enforcers, but at this point, in the tail end of Tank for Tavares, when the team has been flat the last two games, do you really need to make a guy in the NHL suffer the ration of just a sniff over one minute of ice time? Surely any time in the NHL is a bonus for the 28-year-old towering Fritz, but 1:09 in a garbage game on a last-place team is a tad depressing. I'm not saying goon it up, but mercy -- throw him a bone, Scott!
Amusingly, the same day I dismiss the Penguins' chances of moving up from the sixth seed -- in a post explaining my season-long failures in assessing the current Penguins squad -- Pittsburgh indeed jumps into at least a points tie for fourth. Somehow -- after winning 12 straight games at home -- fifth-seed Carolina fell 5-1 at home to Buffalo, and fourth-seed Philadelphia lost 2-1 at the Garden last night.
They're all at 97 points, with Philadelphia having an extra game (including Saturday at the Coliseum). Pittsburgh may yet have the chance to begin Round 1 at home.
Ah well. Did I mention I never gamble on the outcome of hockey games?